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Originally published Sunday, December 11, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Television

Like "Prison Break's" cons, writer won't rat out the plot

You can ask, beg or plead with writer-producer Nick Santora for details about what's ahead on "Prison Break," but the response is always...

The Record (Hackensack N.J

You can ask, beg or plead with writer-producer Nick Santora for details about what's ahead on "Prison Break," but the response is always the same. Polite and funny — but not about to divulge classified information.

"I'd like nothing more than to run off at the mouth. I wish I could start a blog and print it. People would jump out of their skin with the twists and turns and bombs dropping," Santora says. "Huge, massive revelations with respect to some of our characters. People we never thought we'd see we'll see."

"Prison Break," which had its fall finale last week, is returning to Mondays March 13 but will air at 8 p.m., leading into "24." Says Santora, "I think it's going to be a powerful couple of hours of television."

The native New Yorker is good at being discreet. He worked as a lawyer before going Hollywood several years back.

Though Santora couldn't discuss specifics — of course, he won't say if Lincoln will actually get fried — he happily chatted about the show he calls his "most fun job" ever.

Q: Is it possible to conceal a razor blade under the tongue like T-Bag?

A: We got that out of a true prison story. All we do is read books and articles about prison, prison escape, corrections.

Q: But how real is the prison life?

A: We hear a lot that [people] find the show at times to be so, for lack of a better word, outlandish. We try to make all efforts to keep the show as realistic as possible, with the understanding that sometimes you have to take some liberties. We are constantly in contact with people in the corrections system ... to make sure we're legitimate.

We actually are physically breaking out of that [inactive] prison that we're shooting at. Every producer and writer on the show, we have been in the steam pipes, the tunnels, bowels, catacombs, cells, administrative buildings at Joliet Prison [which passes for Fox River Penitentiary].

The hole that these guys are digging in the guard's room to escape — that's not a set. We're smashing through concrete in Joliet Prison and going underground.

Q: What's the prison's scariest nook or cranny?

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A: The creepiest part of the whole prison is the prison cell that actor Dominic Purcell stays in when he's portraying Lincoln. That was the cell that serial killer John Wayne Gacy was in. It's eerie. There's a strange vibe.

Q: How can the inmates move about so freely? Especially Burrows, a condemned man?

A: Some prisons do allow for an open time during the day where cell doors are open and these guys can walk out along the tier and share cigarettes. ... Death-row inmates working on PI [prison industries] probably is not a common occurrence. However, some of these guys are on death row 15, 20 years. They're not asked to sit in their cell 24 hours a day.

Q: Michael Scofield seems closer to the edge, psychologically, no?

A: He had a rough, very difficult childhood, and it definitely affected the person he is today. Over the next few episodes, we learn a lot about Michael Scofield's family background and his relationship with his brother.

Q: Will we see Abruzzi again?

A: Possibly.

Q: Will we ever see them on the outside?

A: This break in the season shouldn't leave the viewers to think that anything with respect to the structure of this show changes. When we come back, we pick up with the same exact excitement. What happens to these guys when they are in a room and find the pipe had been replaced, and there's a guard who has heard them? I can assure the fans that the writers are not going to let them down.

Q: If the inmates did break out, what would happen to characters like the doctor and the warden?

A: We know where the show's going through Season 4, and we have ideas through Season 5. We spent the first few days after Thanksgiving breaking out details for the end of [several] episodes of Season 2 and doing the story arcs for Season 3 in great detail. We know exactly where it's going.

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